“We’ve known working in obscurity and we’ll know it again,” sings !!!’s Nic Offer on the ‘80s-flecked electro shimmer of ‘Serbia Drums’ from their new eighth album ‘Wallop’. “We know that they’re almost done with what they need from us”.
It’s a weirdly modest but brazen testament to the band’s longevity. You remember neon nights of sticky indie dancefloors loaded with limbs jerking along to the sound of metronomic cowbell, squelchy retro-futuristic synths and the crash of violent guitars? Yes, that halcyon hedonistic peak of ‘00s dance-punk, led by the likes of The Rapture, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem and then their anglophile nu-rave cousins. Since then, many of the vanguards of the scene have either hung up their dirty Cons, morphed into something else or are now enjoying the victory lap of the reunion circuit. Hats off to Hot Chip for remaining dons throughout.
Then you’ve got !!! (chk chk chk). In the 18 years since their perfectly-timed self-titled debut, they’ve never wavered from their art-rock disco vision or disappeared while trends have shifted. Sure, there may have been dancing through relative obscurity for !!! amid other scenes borrowing their sounds, but there’s something about the genre-smashing vibrance of the peaks of ‘Wallop’ that makes it feel so joyous and essentially in the now. But not every party is without its problems.
Opener ‘Let It Change U’ carries a somewhat predictable DNA of slowly brooding trance, before ‘Couldn’t Have Known’ lifts things up with an Avalanches-esque summer bop spot that Friendly Fires’ recent lukewarm comeback record would have killed for. There’s fun to be had too in the dark electro bounce of ‘Off The Grid’ and ‘In The Grid’, the ‘Random Access Memories’ sunset scorcher of ‘Slow Motion’, the chaotic collapse of ‘Rhythm Of The Gravity’ and industrial, apocalyptic stomp of ‘UR Paranoid’ and euphoric disco of ‘This Is The Door’. But it’s the ‘meh’ shruggable moments of filler around them that dog the consistency of ‘Wallop’. There’s not the high-octane fuel or direction to take the record to the heights that it so constantly teases.
“If you would’ve told me how things are / I would’ve thought that we had won,” Offer continues on the aforementioned album highlight ‘Serbia Drums’, sounding as if they’re experiencing a James Murphy hipster-in-crisis ‘Losing My Edge’ moment of their own. Still, there’s an edge in there somewhere. The kids may be coming up from behind, but !!! continue to find purpose and pleasure in a corner of their own.